Independence Day

This is the twelfth Indian Independence Day that we have celebrated at Woodstock. Coming so soon after the beginning of the semester, for new staff it’s always a rush to get the saris made in time, but it’s the first real taste of India – literally, in fact, because for the last few years, we have developed the habit of creating an Indian food court in the Quad, serving a range of specialties – biriani (rice with meat or vegetable) with rumali roti (“handkerchief” breads, so called because of their size and thinness), puri aloo (fried bread and potatoes), aloo tiki (delicious fried potato cakes served with yoghurt, coriander sauce and tamarind sauce), masala dosas (thin south Indian lentil and rice crepes filled with vegetable curry) and, my personal favourite, chole bhature. Lots of countries have their variation on this; in England it’s baked beans on toast; in Mexico refried kidney beans in a tortilla. in India it’s spiced chick peas in a sauce, served with deep fried flatbread that puffs up like a balloon. I could live on it! Of course, there were gulab jamuns (a kind of deep-fried donut in sugar syrup), jalebies (fried strands of dough and more sugar syrup) and kheer (rice pudding) to finish with – and lots of chai.

But first, there’s the flag raising ceremony. Not the one shown in the first picture below – that was raised by the employees on the flagpole terrace earlier in the day – but the one in the second picture, in the gym. The whole staff and student body, hillside guests and alumni filled the gym. There was music from the Indian music department and the Hindi choir, and a speech by chaplain Brian Dunn, focusing on the Indian Road as a metaphor of India’s unique secularism.  The flag was unfurled by longest-serving student Sohail Das, and we all stood to attention as we sang “Jana Gana Mana”. For the first time I can remember, we also properly recognised Korean independence day, which also falls on 15th August.  Every year it is mentioned, and many of our Korean students wear national dress; this year the band played their national anthem as well as our own.

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There was an extra treat this year, with the unveiling of a bust of Gandhi-ji, created by alumnus Jim Havens ’57, and donated and shipped by his class. It was unveiled by classmate Sylvia Skinner Mahindroo.

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Rumali roti, expertly spun around and cooked on an inverted wok.

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The chole bhature stand..

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.. with the bread sizzling!

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Mutton, chicken and veg biriani.


Masala dosas – very popular, with long queues!

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Two of our newest members of staff:  Margaret, an alumna from the class of 1967, and Sally, a Woodstock newbie.

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The entrance to the Quad – and the food court!


Independence Day spelt the end of independence for our next-door neighbours, Abe and Bethany. On the 14th August their first baby was born, Caroline Elmslie Okie. We spent Independence Day afternoon enjoying the new arrival. Dot is holding the baby, with the real grandmother, Dea, looking on. She leaves in a few weeks, and Dot gets her all to herself!